New uses of the technology have brought interest in VR back
•Louis Rosenberg founded the VR start-up Immersion Corporation in the early nineties.
• Years of research in VR labs at Stanford University, the U.S. space agency NASA, and the U.S. Air Force convinced Rosenberg that virtual reality and augmented reality were on the verge of a breakthrough.
• In the mid-1990s, VR enthusiasm peaked and the industry fell into what Rosenberg calls “the VR winter.”
• What nearly wiped out virtual reality in the nineties was the Internet, according to Rosenberg .
• Companies like Immersion sought opportunities to market their technologies away from virtual reality by developing products like Microscribe 3D which has been used in movies such as Shrek, Ice Age, and Titanic.
• Immersion was also one of the first companies to release haptic joysticks, computer mice,and steering wheels for video games as well as training physicians in surgical procedures using VR interfaces. Today, VR in medicine is considered a billion-dollar market.
The Virtual Past
In the early 1990s, virtual reality was all the rage. But by the end of the decade, the VR industry had all but disappeared. What caused this sudden and dramatic shift? According to psychologist and futurist Lawrence Rosenburg, it was the rise of the internet. With so much information suddenly available at our fingertips, who needed immersive virtual worlds?
Louis Rosenberg founded VR start-up Immersion Corporation in the early nineties.
Years of research in VR labs at Stanford University, the U.S. space agency NASA, and the U.S. Air Force convinced Rosenberg that virtual reality and augmented reality were on the verge of a breakthrough. Rosenberg was not the only one experimenting with VR in the nineties. In 1992, Jaron Lanier founded VPL Research, which developed VR hardware and software and was a major player in the VR industry throughout the nineties. Lanier is credited with coining the term “virtual reality.” However, Rosenberg’s Immersion Corporation was the first to bring VR technology to the masses.
In 1997, the company released one of the first commercially available VR systems, called CyberGrasp. The system allowed users to interact with virtual objects using gloves equipped with sensors. CyberGrasp was used in a variety of applications, including training simulations for the military and flight simulators for NASA. Despite its early success, Immersion Corporation struggled to find a niche for its product in the consumer market and went bankrupt in 2002. Rosenberg went on to found a new company, surrealistic experiences in Palo Alto.
The new company focuses on creating interactive software for tablets and mobile devices. Rosenberg’s experience with Immersion Corporation shows that it can be difficult to find a successful business model for VR technology. However, his continued involvement in the VR industry shows that he remains optimistic about its potential.
The Fall of Virtual Reality
The history of virtual reality is often described in terms of a cycle of hype and disillusionment. In the mid-1990s, VR enthusiasm peaked and the industry fell into what Rosenberg calls “the VR winter.” This period was characterized by overvalued start-ups, unrealistic expectations, and a general sense that VR was more hype than substance. However, the VR winter was followed by a renewed interest in the technology, facilitated by advances in computing power and the development of new applications. Currently, we are in what some have called a “second golden age” of VR, with widespread excitement about the potential of the technology across a range of industries. While it remains to be seen whether VR will live up to its current hype, there is no doubt that it has come a long way since its early days.
In the early 1990s, VR was poised to take over the world. But then something strange happened: VR headsets started disappearing from store shelves and fading from popular culture. According to Lawrence Rosenberg, a psychologist and futurist specializing in emerging technologies, the sudden decline of VR can be blamed on one thing: the internet.
“What nearly wiped out virtual reality in the nineties was the Internet,” Rosenberg toldvrscout.com. “People realized that you could get all this information without putting on a headset.” As a result, VR companies went bankrupt left and right, and VR disappeared from popular culture almost overnight.
The Rise of Virtual Reality 2.0
VR didn’t just go away; a handful of companies found new ways to market their technologies. One of those companies was Immersion, which developed Microscribe 3D — a device used by movie studios to create CGI animation for films like Shrek, Ice Age, and Titanic. Immersion was also one of the first companies to release haptic joysticks for video games, as well as computer mice and steering wheels with haptic feedback.
In addition to creating new products, Immersion also found new markets for its VR technologies — namely medicine and training. For example, physicians can use VR interfaces to train for surgical procedures, and surgeons can use them to practice delicate operations before performing them on real patients. Today, VR in medicine is considered a billion-dollar market . . . which is not bad for an industry that was all but dead less than 20 years ago.
Return to virtual reality
VR may have disappeared from store shelves in the nineties — but it didn’t go away entirely. A handful of companies found new ways to market their technologies, developing products like Microscribe 3D and haptic joysticks for video games. And whileVR once again become popular in recent years thanks to applications in medicine and training physicians for surgical procedures.. So don’t count virtual reality out just yet; it may be poised for another resurgence in popularity very soon.
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